How do we develop program learning outcomes?

Program learning outcomes (PLOs) identify the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to demonstrate at completion of a program. They represent what students should know, be able to do, or value. Keep in mind that PLOs are different from course learning outcomes (CLOs), though CLOs should align with PLOs since individual courses contribute to a program.

Some programs will have learning outcomes available from specialized accreditors or disciplinary organizations. If external learning outcomes do not exist, one approach to develop program learning outcomes is to work through the following steps as a program:

  1. Establish a mission statement, which articulates why the program exists and what it is trying to accomplish, THEN
  2. Articulate learning goals, which are more specific than the mission statement, though not written to be measurable, and can be aligned with multiple learning outcomes, THEN
  3. Develop program learning outcomes, which specify what students will know, be able to do, or value (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) at program completion. PLOs should be (1) attainable, (2) measurable, and (3) able to be understood by students.


Learning outcomes for an undergraduate psychology program might include:

  1. Summarize central aspects in the history of psychology.
  2. Identify biological bases of behavior and development.
  3. Outline the major ideas behind the individual differences perspective.
  4. Explain key social factors that influence cognition and behavior.
  5. Select methodology appropriate to a particular research question generated by the student.
  6. Distinguish among major statistical tests and be able to choose appropriate tests for specific data sets.
  7. Design research that follows the ethical principles of psychology as established by the APA.
  8. Write a research report in APA style.
  9. Evaluate scientific research, including research presented in the media.

Next step: construct a Curriculum Map.

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